On Wednesday 27 March, Youth Off The Streets’ Koch Centre in Macquarie Fields held a ceremony to acknowledge Close The Gap Day and raise awareness of the issues Indigenous Australians face.
There was an outstanding turn out of youth workers, schools, members of the community and guest speakers all supporting our aboriginal services and the Close The Gap initiative.
The day began with a beautiful smoking ceremony to pay respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land, the Dharawal people. Everyone was then taken inside to hear from a range of guest speakers talk about the Close The Gap initiative.
Two young people from the Koch leadership program did a fantastic job of introducing the guest speakers such as the MP member of Macquarie fields, community leader of the area Jan Nicoll and various other services from the area.
Mr Anoulack Chanthivong, Member for Macquarie Fields, and Jenny Franke, Director of Lifestyles, Campbelltown City Council (representing Ms Lindy Dietz, General Manager) spoke of the importance of communities coming together and saying that the gap is not acceptable. We also heard about the difficulties in the local community and how this gap has such as negative effect on all people, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or not.
Father Chris Riley also addressed the crowd and spoke of his new Aboriginal service in Western Sydney.
“In some areas, the gap has shrunk. But there are still many areas in need. We are opening up a service in Mt Druitt, Western Sydney as they have a large population of Indigenous Australians that need our guidance. By this time next year I want to stand here and say we are closing the gap in this community, and I will give you all the resources in order to do that,” Father said.
There was not a dry eye in the room as Jan Nicoll spoke of the importance of connecting with your community.
“By connecting with those around you, we can all work towards creating a better future for each other,” Jan said.
Marcello Sirna, Western Sydney Outreach Youth Worker, highlighted the importance of events like this in raising awareness of the inequalities that Indigenous Australians face.
“ Close the gap means taking a step forward. It means acknowledging these vital issues instead of remaining complacent. It means removing the barriers that prevent reconciliation; creating the divide between Australians. It means implementing systematic change within our schools, workplaces, and communities. It means having events like this today that celebrate indigenous culture and continue the conversation,” said Marcello.
The day was concluded with a bbq lunch, a chance to sign the Close The Gap petition and arts and crafts including boomerang painting.
At Youth Off The Streets, we believe that every Australian deserves the right to a healthy and bright future. We would like to thank everyone for their continued support, let’s work toward closing the gap and creating a brighter future for our young Indigenous Australians.